Office of Planning and Budgeting

Should Federal Government Support a Regional Approach to Public Higher Ed?

The Center for American Progress released a new report, Easy Come, EZ-GO: A Federal Role in Removing Jurisdictional Impediments to College Education, that presents a bold argument for the creation of Education Zone Governance Organizations (EZ-GO), which would provide federal resources to help ease barriers to higher education for citizens of metropolitan areas that cross state borders (20 out of 44). The Center argues that a more regional approach to higher education in such areas is necessary to reach ambitious new college attainment goals.

While higher education policy has historically been formed at the state-level due to state funding of institutions, the report asserts that this strategy is no longer sufficient given the growth of higher education participation coupled with the increased mobility of Americans. This is especially illustrated in the 20 metropolitan areas they identify as crossing state lines. In these locations, citizens are often restricted in their access to affordable, quality higher education based on their state of residence, primarily due to:

  • State based financial aid
  • Residency based tuition pricing
  • Credit transfer policies between institutions

One of five Americans live in such areas, including in Portland, a metropolitan area that reaches into Washington State. The majority of the institutional capacity in the Portland metropolitan area is located in the State of Oregon, which means that your specific address has real ramifications for your access to affordable higher education, which these authors argue is suboptimal for increasing attainment.

Ultimately, they recommend that the federal government create EZ-GO areas (overseen by an EZ-GO Commission) to:

  • Provide technical support to develop EZ-GO-wide articulation agreements
  • Support capital investments to built up institutional capacity
  • Assist in matching postsecondary programs to local labor markets
  • Encourage partnerships between institutions and across sectors

Expect a lot of proposals like this one to surface as stakeholders across the nation grapple with how to, in a relatively short period of time, raise the percentage of Americans with a two-year or four-year degree from 38% to 60%.

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